Carrier Wi-Fi will get bigger in 2013 as operators expand their 802.11 footprints and look for smoother ways to move between hotspots and 4G. Here’s a look at the trends they’ll be riding.
Gigabit Wi-Fi: The new 802.11ac standard — sometimes known as 5G Wireless — could push Wi-Fi speeds beyond 1 Gbit/s on the 5GHz public band. Chips from Broadcom, Marvell Technology Group Ltd. and others use multiple-antenna arrays and channel-bonding techniques to further bump up the speed of Wi-Fi. Broadcom is expecting that 802.11ac will be interesting to carriers as a means of delivering video traffic over-the-air.
Integrated Wi-Fi & LTE: 3G and 4G small cells that integrate Wi-Fi into their connectivity buffet will make the scene in 2013. Vodafone Group plc is expected to be among the first carriers to deploy the new technology.
Larger deployments: Cisco Systems Inc. has just won a deal to deploy 100,000 access points across Indonesia. KDDI Corp. has already rolled out 120,000 access points in Japan. Expect to see more big numbers of Wi-Fi radios deployed for offload and faster access — especially in Asia — in 2013.
Roaming between Wi-Fi & LTE: Asian carriers such as SK Telecom, which already has large Wi-Fi hotspot deployments and 7 million 4G LTE subscribers, are likely to push seamless roaming between 4G and Wi-Fi. The move will require Hotspot 2.0 support in handsets and other devices to enable a smooth move between networks.
Smartphones & tablets driving Wi-Fi in 2013: The Wireless Broadband Alliance reports that smartphones already overtook laptops as the main access method to hotspots in 2012, with tablets already representing 17 percent of the access devices. This number is likely to grow in 2013, with increased sales of Wi-Fi-only tablets from Apple Inc, Google and others boosting the market next year.